Marion honors village founder Christopher Clark
MARION — From noon to 4 p.m. on Sept. 12, the Marion Area Historical Society hosted Christopher Clark Day to honor the pioneering lumberman and mill owner who founded the village of Marion more than 135 years ago.
The 14th annual celebration took place at the Marion Area Historical Museum where visitors had the opportunity to tour the museum, stroll through the picturesque museum grounds, visit the quaint interior of a historic log cabin and examine antique farm tools and equipment in the barn.
A highlight of the museum tour was an eye-catching exhibit of more than two dozen vintage quilts ranging from 50 to 100 years old. The quilts, all family treasures on loan to the museum for the special event, featured nostalgic and intricate patterns from a bygone era.
One of the quilts on display, fashioned in the popular log cabin design, is the handiwork of Ruth Ann Pollingtonn, a passionate, lifelong quilter from Marion.
Onlookers also watched with interest as Pollington, using a 55-year-old Singer sewing machine, demonstrated the art of stitching quilt squares from colorful fabrics.
The soothing whir of three different types of spinning wheels also drew onlookers who enjoyed a live demonstration of wool-spinning by Marion Spinning Guild members Ann Speer, Lorie Hopkins and Holly Buning.
Outside, Jim Baughan used his own recipe to prepare a savory stew that is a tradition of Christopher Clark Day.
Simmered in a giant kettle over an open fire, Baughan’s steaming mixture of potatoes, carrots, onions, cabbage and ham is a tribute to the hearty fare of Marion’s founder and the lumberjacks who followed him and first settled the area.
Clark, who sought his fortune in the lumber trade, was drawn by tales of prosperity in Michigan’s great lumber boom. From
the train depot in Cadillac, foreman Clark and a crew of lumberjacks hiked 25 miles on foot through dense forest to reach the site of a new mill on the banks of the Middle Branch River.
Many believe the romantic story that Clark named the village he founded after his adventurous and accomplished wife, who was in fact, the first woman resident and first teacher in Marion. Early records are contradictory, and it’s not clear whether her first or middle name was Marion.
But whatever the truth may be, the name was widely accepted and the settlement became the incorporated village of Marion on Feb. 20, 1889.
“I come to Christopher Clark Day because I love history,” said Marion resident Ann Michell Coon. “It’s a great way to learn about our local past, how Marion got its start and the way the early settlers lived. One of my family quilts made around 1936 with the sun bonnet design is part of the quilt show.”
“I love sitting outdoors and chatting with folks from around here,” said Jean Orvis, also from Marion. “Some I haven’t seen in a while and it’s a good way to catch up on the news. I like to support the museum and the food’s always good.”
Donna Geyer, event organizer, was pleased with attendance. “We had a steady stream of people stopping by,” she said. “That’s not too surprising because Christopher Clark Day is our most popular event and we hold it every year in September.”
The museum is located at 505 S. Mill St. (M-66) in Marion. For further information about the Marion Area Historical Society, contact Marilyn Grose, president, (231) 743-6218.